[Beyond Fest 2023 Review] NIGHT OF THE HUNTED

NIGHT OF THE HUNTED is the newest film from writer and director Franck Khalfoun, best known for the remake of Maniac and the thriller P2. It stars Camille Rowe, Jeremy Scippio, J. John Bieler, Brenda Nunez, Stasa Stanic, and Monaia Abdelrahim. The film was written by Rubén Ávila Calvo, David R.L., Glen Freyer, and Franck Khalfoun.

Alice (Camille Rowe) stops at what seems like a deserted gas station with the colleague she has been having an affair with when she and her lover are hit with bullets. A sniper shoots anyone who enters the gas station, possibly from a nearby billboard with a religious message, who communicates through a walkie-talkie. As she tries to reason with the sniper, a psychological game of cat and mouse begins as Alice tries to find a way to survive.

NIGHT OF THE HUNTED treads in uncomfortable territory. Some may question the film’s purpose, but I think that its purpose is to ask a question. As Alice and the sniper speak, his objective is unclear, but he seems to have personal information about her and a grudge against her employer. The sniper has anti-vaccine and right-wing views and makes accusations against Alice that she refutes. Alice happens to work in marketing for a fictional pharmaceutical company.

NIGHT OF THE HUNTED slowly becomes a battle of will between the sniper and Camille. The thematic connection to social media becomes evident as the sniper remains mostly a voice on the walkie-talkie, questioning Alice’s views and actions, particularly her dedication to her beliefs and her willingness to protect others at the potential cost of her own life. The sniper believes himself ideologically superior to Alice because he is willing to die for his beliefs and alleged wrongs.

Camille ROWE (Alice) and J. John BIELER (Doug) in Night of the Hunted. Photo Credit: GETAWAY FILMS/CINESTESIA/Shudder

Still, there’s always an undercurrent within his speeches and actions that maybe he’s not telling the truth. It reminds me of those people and accounts on social media, especially Twitter, that exist to be contrarian for the sake of being contrarian or politicians who espouse views publicly that they do not hold privately. Could the sniper be “trolling”? It’s possible, and that’s a very unsettling alternative within the plot.

After thinking about NIGHT OF THE HUNTED, it seems like a metaphor for the verbal warfare on social media and the legacy of disinformation spread on the Internet. Social media platforms, especially ones like Twitter, were started as a way to communicate worldwide but have since been taken over by right-wing billionaires intent on controlling the dissemination of information. Admittedly, some of them were started by those “tech bros” who have purported libertarian views that are more conservative than they like to admit. However, the value of social media and the media itself was noticed; that’s why these billionaires have started making purchases. They realize the value of holding the keys to public discourse.

I believe artists are connected through creativity to the rest of humanity and our fears and desires. There have been times within recent memory when a film, like Jeremy Saulnier’s Green Room, foresaw the future we live in today. NIGHT OF THE HUNTED is a film with an artist asking an uneasy question that doesn’t have an answer. The thing that came to my mind after watching it is that there have already been instances of right-wing violence that have caused deaths: mass shootings and even the attempted coup on January 6. When the sniper asks if Alice is willing to die for her beliefs, he insists he is; the film acknowledges that more of this kind of violence may be coming and asks us, as a society and individuals, what we intend to do about it.

It’s nothing so simple as asking why we can’t get along, but when put to it, are we willing to risk it all for our beliefs? With such darkness on the horizon, even if we talk big on the Internet, what will we do when confronted in real life? How can we deal with the situation before it goes out of control? The filmmaker isn’t proposing an answer, but he brings up the issue in asking the question. When doubting the director’s intent, it is necessary to note that Alice is the protagonist in the film.

Credit: Shudder

Camille Rowe is good as Alice; she’s pragmatic, exasperated at her attempts to escape being foiled repeatedly, and curious about what is happening. Alice is firm but not in a showy way. Alice is a character that is intelligent but, when put under pressure, she doesn’t always make the right decision or react quickly enough. She’s also self-protective over others. Rowe and the other actors do well to convince you that the situation is real, and their work does the heavy lifting to convince the audience of the realism of the central concept of the plot.

The cinematography is by Steven Petitteville, which is very clean and very bright, befitting the lighting of a gasoline station’s market. It’s not about the beauty of the scenery. It captures most of the cold, clinical, and unforgiving atmosphere of the story and the market, which serves the narrative well. The score by Mathieu Carratier is particularly memorable and scary, which adds to the claustrophobic atmosphere.

NIGHT OF THE HUNTED is a well-made film that asks its audience several uncomfortable questions. The plot’s tense situation of a mass shooting involving a sniper parallels the dangers of our new technological world and our willingness to fight for our beliefs against zealots willing to die for theirs.

NIGHT OF THE HUNTED will stream exclusively on Shudder starting October 20, 2023. The film had its world premiere at the 2023 Beyond Fest.

Dolores Quintana
Follow Me
Latest posts by Dolores Quintana (see all)
Movie Reviews

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *